Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Morambar
Posts: 1022

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#1 » Mon Mar 20, 2006 11:37 am

I've decided to take Grondys helpful suggestion regarding a topic on which I go back and forth: who was bigger and badder, Glaurung or Ancalagon? We know the latter was the greatest of the flying dragons, but this seems a hefty qualifier, given the fact Glaurung was bound to land. In fictions I've read involving dragons those who could fly are invariably smaller than those that can't, because of the physics that woud be involved in such creatures. The closest real world parallel would be that while pterodons were, IIRC, the largest flying reptiles, a T-Rex or brontosaur dwarfed them in size.

Logically, you'd think Morgoth would make the best and baddest right out of the gate, and that subsequent models would be mere variations on this theme. This logic is borne out by actual later developments; Glaurung and the other early dragons were just flaming juggernauts, while later versions saw the refinement of flight. When we read of Ancalagons Wreck flattening Thangorodrim it certainly seems to argue for his being quite imposing, and without doubt he was, but Glaurung killed whole rivers and charred countrysides just by his passage. I lean towards Ancalagon, but I'm torn. So, what say you all, PT?

User avatar
Etharion
Posts: 1717

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#2 » Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:40 pm

Ah!! You ask a difficult question... Ancalagon definently was one bad big lizard, and he could fly!! But Glaurung is one mean bugger! Just look what he did to Turin and his family. There's definently a lot of intelligence in that one. As in combat, who knows... Ancalagon has the advantage of flight, but would that be enough...?

User avatar
virumor
Posts: 3567

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#3 » Mon Mar 20, 2006 3:58 pm

I think the greatest dragon of them all was Wushu, from Mulan.

No seriously, I go for Ancalagon the Black. Like Smaug, he could fly around a bit and fry peeps at the ground without even getting touched.

The fact that he was so big, though, makes it really puzzling how Eärendil was able to beat the beast; Eärendil must've flown an Apache, or a battle cruiser. Ancalagon could snarl, claw, bite and spew fire, but what could Eärendil do? Kamikaze himself into Ancalagon's skull? Enter one of Ancalagon's ears to reach the dragon-brain and splatter away?
Give up the Halfring, she-elf...

Morambar
Posts: 1022

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#4 » Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:20 pm

Ah, but you forgot about the Holy Silmaril of Valinor; he just counts to five, and BOOM! ;-p

More likely, since we had the Great Eagles battling the Drakes in the air it was the flip side of Feanors encounter with the Balrogs: peace through superior firepower. Sure, Ancalagon was scary, but against Earendil and a score of Great Eagles, I think he goes down. It would take a while, hit and fade, hit and fade, just like Fingolfin vs. Morgoth, but I think the main thing that sustained Morgoth was the fact none of the Children of Iluvatar can take a Vala; Thorondor didn't stick at coming down, slicing up Morgoths face, and bearing away Fingolfin, so a little thing like Ancalagon the Black won't slow him down. It seems from the little I know of the origins of each that Drake vs. Great Eagle is more along the lines of Maiar vs. Maiar. And if I had to guess right now, I'd say the Great Eagles are more likely Maiar than the Dragons.

So, is Glaurung a prototype, to make sure Morgoth got everything right before he invested his top henchmen, or did he put the worst of the worst (among non-Balrogs, at least) out there the very first time? And why don't we hear more about Dragons in the Fall of Gondolin? We know they were there, but there's no direct encounters.

User avatar
virumor
Posts: 3567

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#5 » Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:37 pm

Actually, I believe Eärendil fought Ancalagon alone, one day and one night.

The Great Eagles are indeed Maiar, as are the Ents, for the exact quote visit the 'Tom or Fangorn' thread.

Dragons are most probably Maiar; maybe they're Valaraukar who were forced to leave their Blarog-body and to enter a dragon-shape created by Morgoth. Who knows. Not all Maiar who entered Melkor's service, became Balrogs, after all. There's the hypothesis that the first Orcs were Maiar, too, and what with Wargs, Trolls, etc.

Of course, it's also possible that Morgoth breeded all his monsters using beasts that had already been mutated/deformed earlier by the malice flowing from his former fortress of Utumno. But considering that Glaurung did have Maia-like powers (when he put a spell on Túrin and Nienor) makes me believe that the dragons at least originated from a Maia.

Glaurung seems to be a prototype, for he is described as the father of all dragons (he must've been quite busy at home when he wasn't out burning and slaying).
Give up the Halfring, she-elf...

User avatar
grondmaster
Posts: 25451

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#6 » Mon Mar 20, 2006 6:00 pm

Glaurung seems to be a prototype, for he is described as the father of all dragons (he must've been quite busy at home when he wasn't out burning and slaying).
Yup, I figure the reason the original dragons didn't have wings was that they were made as worms to carve out the tunnels under Thangorodrim; that they were given flames was to irradicate any vermin that decided to settle in those tunnels.
'Share and enjoy'

User avatar
virumor
Posts: 3567

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#7 » Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:38 am

that they were given flames was to irradicate any vermin that decided to settle in those tunnels.

I thought Morgoth had hired Daeron, the Pied Piper of Doriath for that job.
Give up the Halfring, she-elf...

User avatar
Amarië
Posts: 2785

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#8 » Tue Mar 21, 2006 6:37 am

I don't think that they originated from a Maia. If a Maia or two one day long ago just turned into a fantasy being like a dragon, or a five legged emu dog for that matter, he/she wouldn't be able to produce offspring, because the lifeform didn't originate in a creation of Eru. I don't think Balrogs can breed either. It is just a shape, a costume. But I think some fire maian were mixed in with excisting beasts later. Giant serpents or lizards + fire maia = clever fire breathing dragons/fire serpents/uruloki. A twisted version of what Melian did.

Some of the worst and strangest creatures in Norse mythology are created in a simmular way. Loke/Loki is the father of the Middle-earth serpent (a huuuuuuge nasty serpent which curls around ME), the great wolf Fenris (who will swallow the sun and moon during Ragnarok) and the mother(!) of Sleipner (Odin's eight-legged horse). And what is the elven name for serpent? That's right. Lokë. Loki in plural.
"Don't complain under the stars
about the lack of bright spots in you life."
Henrik Wergeland, Norwegian writer

Morambar
Posts: 1022

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#9 » Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:28 am

You philological linguophiles and your derivates! :elfroleeyes: And yet we still don't have "rolleyes" spelled correctly. :tongueelf: I can see it going either way, Amarie, though I am inclined to believe it's a combination, that Morgoth placed Maiar spirits in twisted corruptions he made of Erus creations. In the original, LT2 version, of Beren and Luthien in prose, Huan speaks as a matter of routine, while in the Silm he speaks but thrice in his long life, yet we have the captain of the werewolves make a dying declaraton to Sauron after his battle with Huan. And it's well established Morgoth nor Melkor was capable of creation, only the perversion of existing creations; add the fact Dragons are clearly living creatures and they can only be either corrupted but preexisting life and/or Maiar in physical form.

Setting aside epistemology and inspiration (according to lore the "snakes" St. Patrick drove from Ireland were the Druids, who used the serpent as a symbol of wisdom, as does scripture on at least two occasions) I don't think Morgoth had it in him to give a dumb beast speech and human (at least) intelligence, but I also don't think it would be possible for any mortal to kill Glaurung or any other Dragon in any permanent sense if they were purely Maiar. So the most reasonable conclusion seems, to me, that the Dragons, Werewolves and likely many other horrible things besides known only to the Professor, were combinations of existing animal life and Maiar. That makes it a lot easier to explain Smaug and Scatha lasting from the First Age; while they COULD be offspring, reproducing Dragons have no precedent in canon, or even in apocrypha so far as I know. If you have an immortal beast due to a Maiar spirits presence reproduction becomes far less necessary, and we don't have to explain the apparently inherent evil of a Dragon brood.

As to the specific issue of Earendils combat with Ancalagon, the Silmarillion says only this (following a passage with the appearance of the previously unknown winged Dragons "so sudden and ruinous... that the host of the Valar was driven back:")

But Earendil came, shining with white flame, and about Vingilot were gathered all the great birds of heaven and Thorondor was their captain, and there was battle in the air all the day and through a dark night of doubt. Before the rising of the sun Earendil slew Ancalagon the Black, the mightiest of the dragon-host, and cast him from the sky; and he fell upon the towers of Thangorodrim, and they were broken in his ruin.
(Of the Voyage of Earendil, p.252 in the 1977 George, Allen and Unwin hardback)

This is the only canonical mention of the battle, or of Ancalagon at all (stuff like this is what drew me to HoMe.) It does tell us much, but much of that presents as many questions as answers. First, we see a combat between two armies, which Ancalagon and Earendil appear to lead (though it DOES say Thorondor was the captain of the Eagles, or perhaps of "the great birds" in general, though I know of no others in canon.) Even that assumes the Dragons were led by the greatest of their members, and not by Sauron or the mind of Morgoth himself, but this seems reasonable given the cunning and intellect we see in Glaurung and Smaug.

It's impossible to tell if Earendils combat with Ancalagon was "Roman style" or an aspect of the larger fray, but if the former it begs the question of what kept Vingilot aloft not merely in the heavens but over Thangorodrim. In this he is not simply put through the Doors of Night as part of the celestial realm, but in Middle-earth, and flying. Not only that, but his ship is with him, which to me suggests something like the swans of Alqualonde drawing the ships of Teleri.

Beyond that we can say little save the HOSTS fought the rest of the day and the entire night, and Earendil personally slew Ancalagon ere dawn. Ancalagons fall broke "the towers of Thangorodrim;" is this the mountain itself, or merely its battlements, which latter the Wreck of Gluarung, or even Smaug would likely have done? We don't know. Ancalagon is called "the mightiest of the dragon-host" but this seems to mean "the host of Dragons in the fight" from which Glaurung is obviously excluded since he's dead.

Hence my conundrum; Ancalagon is unquestionably the greatest of the flying dragons, but could something of Glaurungs bulk fly? If the winged dragons were so fiercesome, why were they not used 'til the War of the Powers? The most logical answer to the latter is that air superiority was of little value in the previous wars (though you'd think it would come up in the Fall of Gondolin) as to the former, I can't decide, though I lean toward "Ancalagon was the greatest of the Dragons, bar none."

User avatar
Loss
Posts: 3691

Of Wyrms and Drakes: Greatest?

Post#10 » Tue Mar 21, 2006 2:10 pm

maybe it should be a new poll??? to get everyone's oppinion??

Return to “The Silmarillion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests